Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Behind The Complaint About Victims Not Avoiding Danger

I've been thinking about the laments against stupid or foolish victims by people who claim to be against rape and domestic abuse. These laments are at best hopelessly naive. At worst, they are callous statements which support rape and domestic abuse and help perpetrators justify or minimize their actions.

Typically there is more disdain in these laments directed at victims and potential victims than gets directed at perpetrators and potential perpetrators. When they get called on this, they will often justify directing their harshest statements at victims by labeling perpetrators as robotic monsters incapable of learning.

If they believe their own words then they are revealing a stark worldview. Those who have this stark worldview because they have been victims may not feel safe revealing this fact and they may have internalized blame directed at them by their own perpetrators and people who sided with the perps.

While this is understandable, the cycle of victim blaming needs to be interrupted and that isn't always painless.

One of the things that supposedly makes victims stupid or foolish is ignoring generic advice about the assumed causes of rape and/or abuse. These people will say things like, "All men will take what they can get. So don't ever be alone with that man."

This advice is useless since it can easily be proven to be false. Not all men will take what they can get. If someone has concerns about the potential violence of a specific individual -- or knows that a specific individual has a history of violence -- and uses this approach to warn people, it is the failure of their communication which is the biggest contributor to someone trusting the untrustworthy after being warned.

For the person giving the warning, generic warnings which are ineffective are safer in many ways to specific warnings and honest talk where there is no hint of disdain for the person being warned. Those who say, "If you don't heed my warning, you will only have yourself to blame if you are raped/abused" are being ineffective and compounding the harm done by rapists and abusers by letting the violent off the hook.

If they were a victim of this person who they say not to trust because of what men do, getting specific would mean risking disclosure and disbelief. This is one of the reasons why disclosing rape or abuse can be such a powerful step.

Make no mistake, many of those who give warnings have no history of being victimized. There are plenty of people who have a very high tolerance for rape and abuse before they declare that rape and abuse is the responsibility of the rapist or the abuser.

These people's disdain for most victims is real as is their sympathy for many rapists and abusers. To them short skirts and nagging are the cause of rape and abuse. They will frequently talk about their support for truly innocent victims. A woman kidnapped at knife point leaving a mall is a truly innocent rape victim. A woman kidnapped at knife point walking home from a bar is not. Their opposition isn't to the crime itself, but to the selection of "innocent" victims.

Rather than standing up against the violent, they stand up against the "impure" who they believe bring harm onto themselves through their impurity.

The unfortunate reality is that there is potential danger everywhere and to everyone. The best way to reduce that danger is for people to stop sending mixed messages to rapists and abusers. Rape and abuse is wrong no matter the circumstance or the choice of victim. This doesn't change because a victim ignored one or more warnings for whatever reason.

Rape and abuse must be viewed as the legal and moral responsibility of the rapist and the abuser -- no exceptions, no excuses.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:49 AM   1 comments links to this post


At January 23, 2008 11:15 AM, OpenID jayherron said...

You make an absolutly correct statement about the 'class structure' of rape victims-how thier status in life is leveled against them-or for them.
There is an unsolved murder of a young woman who's body was found on the outskirts of town on a greenway of a bike path.
There is also an unsolved case-the murder of a young co-ed from the uninversity (some twenty years ago) and the local authorities noted they were returning old stones they had turned before. The girls father is a wealthy developer in Miami...so!
In the 'survivors art exhibit' I participate in-last year there was puzzle divided into two sections-one was pieces made up of the printed story about the homeless woman found on the bike path. Her pieces were left lose so you had to put the puzzle together-to solve it.
The wealthy girls part of the puzzle was glued so you could'nt disturb it. It was already solved.
To be raped-to be murdered -to be abused...it has no social divides-nor does it have gender divides.


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